Up From the Pit

June 11, 2019

Psalm 30  Psalm 30 is a word of testimony and a call to praise. As we listen, we find ourselves reminded of God’s deliverance or encouraged to seek Him today.

 

  • The Broad Picture (vv. 1-3) – Have you ever felt absolutely down in a pit? That is how the Psalmist felt, and he praises God for lifting him out. Among the types of pits, some are because life is hard, some are places of refinement, and some are places of discipline.

 

  • The Call to Join Praise (vv. 4-5) – The Psalmist has experienced the “night” of sorrow in this pit of discipline, but he also testifies to the “morning” of joy on the other side. You may recall such times in your own life.

 

  • Getting Specific About the Problem (vv. 6-7) – This must have been a pit of discipline. We hear the Psalmist testify to coming to a place of self-assurance in His life, maybe forgetting God’s role, place, and hand in things. God withdrew His favor and things crumbled.

 

  • The Call to God for Help and a Word of Praise (vv. 8-12) – We hear the Psalmist voicing humble repentance and also having as a main concern the fact that his undoing in this pit meant a lack of being able to give God glory. He expresses humble calling out, and God responds, leading him to joy and thanks.

 

As a born again person, you may recall times of discipline, repentance, and restoration in your own life, or you may find in this Psalm a caution about self-assurance. You also hear themes of the Gospel as you think about being lost and in the pit of spiritual deadness and calling out to God through repentance and faith in Jesus once you experienced your need for God. Those we know who are not in Christ are, of course, invited to this same salvation deliverance in Jesus.

 



Grace, Love, and Fellowship

June 04, 2019

 
2 Corinthians 13:14 & Psalm 23:1-6  Last week, as I was thinking about the ebb and flow of life and what we might need from the Lord, I felt we needed a word of help with rest and renewal, calm and refreshing, comfort, encouragement, and God’s provision, presence, and care.

 

Grace, Love, and Fellowship in the Psalm

  • We see God’s grace in peace, nourishment, refreshing, provision, presence, comfort, power, sustaining, renewal, enabling righteousness, peace, fullness, well-being, and confidence in the face of difficulty.
  • These provisions of grace are demonstrations of His love.
  • These provisions are in the context of fellowship with God.

 

The Grace, Love, and Fellowship of God

  • The Grace of God is both the work of God to deal with our sin when we confess and repent in Christ and the work of enabling grace for daily life and service.
  • The love of God is seen in the work of the cross and our covenant relationship with Him.
  • The fellowship with God is both judicial and practical through the Holy Spirit.

 

Our Grace, Love, and Fellowship

  • We have a need to receive and live in grace, and we are called to extend it to others.
  • We are called to love God and also to love others.
  • We are enabled to live in fellowship with God and called to Godly fellowship with each other.

 

Out of His love for us, God extends His grace to us to bring us into fellowship with Him. As we live in fellowship with Him, we know His grace and love more. Then, out of the overflow of (and because of) God’s grace, love, and fellowship, we are called to live with each other in Godly grace, love, and fellowship. Pray into His grace, love, and fellowship.

 



More Than What You Know – Loving God

May 28, 2019 Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & Matthew 22: 34-40  As we conclude our “More than what you know” series, it we need to look at the nature of our connection with God and the call of  Scripture to love Him in a commitment-love way.   What the Bible Says About Our Relationship to God – In the Old Testament, the people of God are referred to in marriage language with worship of other gods being spiritual adultery, and in the New Testament, Christ’s followers make up His bride. Going further, love in our passages is covenant love and is commanded. More than that, when we understand what “heart, soul, and might” mean in the  Bible, we discover a call to love God with every part of our being and life, drives, ambitions, will, self, emotions, intentions, and more with force and abundance.   God Shows His Love Through – His unchanging nature, His Word, His desire to bring us to Himself, Jesus and His ministry, the cross and   resurrection work of Jesus, and love among Christians.   Loving the Lord is Matter Of – covenant commitment, communion and communication, relationship and direction.   Loving the Lord Looks Like – resting and rejoicing in His love, responding to Him with love, wanting to know what pleases Him and doing it, knowing about Him and knowing Him, being faithful to Him, serving Him, and obeying Him.   How do Problems Arise? – Love for God can diminish due to confusion about God or disappointment with Him for some reason, as well as from being distracted by worldly things. Another problem comes from understanding faith as a business transaction with God rather than a covenant of commitment-love.   Do you love the Lord, or have you settled into a comfortable distance from Him? God calls respond to His love with love – decisive, commitment-love that opens us to His saving and molding work in our lives and church.



More Than What You Know – Living by Faith

May 21, 2019

Galatians 2:20  The first application in this passage is living in reliance on Jesus for being right with God instead of our own efforts. But, I think there is another layer of living by faith that has several parts.

  • Living by faith includes dying to self (Matthew 16:24-26). This means everything in us that is opposed to God is put to death. However, we sometimes try to come to Jesus for insurance against hell instead of following Him in discipleship; refuse to surrender some area of our life to His Lordship; or gratify sin instead of dying to it.

 

  • Living by faith includes abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-5). The promise is the production of God’s results in our lives if we abide, and the test of whether or not we are abiding is whether or not fruit is produced. The problem comes when we think knowing religious facts or doing religious things equals abiding in Jesus; when we come to Jesus then do not continue seeking Him and nurturing our relationship with Him; and when we do not stay close to Him in a real, abiding relationship.

 

  • Living by faith includes walking in the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). In the Holy Spirit, there is leadership and power for Godly living, and we are faced with a choice to walk in the Spirit or not. We run into problems when we try to live in our own effort, when we rely on our desires and inclinations instead of seeking the Spirit’s fullness; and when we assume that if we are in Jesus, that every inclination we have must be God’s leading.

 

Are you dying to self, abiding in Jesus, and walking by the Holy Spirit each day? The only way effectively to live in Jesus Christ is to live by faith.

 



More Than What You Know – Where Confidence is Found

May 14, 2019

Philippians 3:1-9   What are some reasons people claim they are right with God? These verses suggest we can either turn to our own effort and fail or turn to Jesus.

The Judaizers and legalists of Paul’s day wanted to boast in their religious attainments and pedigrees, and people still do that today. They brag about things like church heritage, not living a bad life before Christ, being founding members of a church, doing church work or attending and giving at church, social status, or knowing a lot about the Bible. However, real righteousness comes when we admit our righteousness is inadequate and come to Jesus for His righteousness in repentance and faith. One problem with coming to Jesus in our own effort, aside from the fact that it doesn’t work, is it leads to things like pride and legalism that steal our joy and set up judgmentalism among Christians. How can we tell if we have started relying on our own goodness? When we think some people should not be saved, when we see some as second-class citizens of the Kingdom, when we are proud because we were not “as lost” as some were before we got saved, and when our walk with Jesus seems like a joyless effort to please God. Remedies for this include loving God and others and seeing our own need for grace.

We get saved, stay saved, and live saved by grace through faith. Yes, we are called to live out our new identity in Godliness, but not to earn standing with God. The ground is level at the cross.

 



More Than What You Know – The Heart of Worship

May 07, 2019

John 4:21-24  If we go back in this story a few verses, we find that the woman has a surface understanding of worship, and was not being sufficiently transformed by it. That happens today.  We allow worship to stop at helping us know facts about God or the right actions to please God, and it does not truly honor God, help us know God, or change our lives.

The heart of worship recognizes something the greatness and worthiness of God, which is shown in many ways. It is seen in God’s characteristics and work revealed in creation and the Bible and the Holy Spirit’s conviction that it is true. It is seen in all He has done to deal with sin and bring us to Himself, and it is seen in the reality and evidence of His presence and work with and in us.

The heart of true worship responds in God-honoring and life-changing ways to the greatness and worthiness of God. Those responses include respect, stillness of spirit, and hunger for God.  Worshipful responses to God’s greatness also include a desire to know Him, obey Him, and serve Him. Humility, confession, repentance, and faith expressed in surrender and devotion are the next steps in worship.  Finally, worship involves telling God and others of God’s greatness.

Jesus, we calls us to go deeper than the outward actions and expressions of worship to genuinely know and praise God in ways that honor Him and change us. Would you ask God to help your heart, mind, and spirit move from a place of outward expression to inward connection in worship – worship in spirit and in truth. Let the greatness of God move you to really connect with Him and respond to who He is and what He has done in real, God-honoring, life-changing worship.



More Than What You Know: God in Christ

April 30, 2019

John 5:39  When you begin a friendship, I hope you want to get to know the other person, who he or she really is. To an extent, we have made our Christianity a matter of knowing the right facts instead of deeply knowing God, as if information is enough in and of itself.

 

Practical wisdom and life experience teach us that what you know is very important. Knowledge is power available to the one who has it. The Bible is full of teachings and commands about gaining knowledge (particularly about God) and its benefits. We need to know what God is like; what we are like; and what He expects. We need to know that we have come short of His standards and He’s provided a Savior – Jesus. We need to know how to come to God in Jesus and how to live like the people God has called us to be. One problem is not living in Godly knowledge. A second problem is replacing a relationship based on faith with a religious system of facts instead of a living walk with Jesus.

 

Who you know is even more important than what you know. Who you know is the purpose / the goal of what you know. Who you know gives life to what you know. When you let what you need to know about God point you to who you need to know (Jesus), and you know Him, He will make you free.

 

Victory comes when we let our knowledge lead us to really know / walk with Jesus. God wants every one of us truly and deeply to know Jesus and not settle for just knowing about Him. Then, He is glorified and we experience Him more powerfully. He blesses us and uses us to touch lives with Jesus. Will you ask the Lord to move you from simply knowing about God to truly knowing God more deeply each day in and through Jesus?

 



Looking to Jesus: His Resurrection

April 23, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:3-8  Over the couple of weeks before Easter, we put the cross in the context of Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching, as well as contemplating its meaning through the picture of the Lord’s Super. Now we celebrate His resurrection.

 

  • Resurrection’s Provision – The resurrection provides the completion of the cross’ work, a future resurrection for those in Christ, and an eternal inheritance for us. When we say Jesus died on a cross for our sin, we must follow it with, “and rose from the dead.” It is a package. The confidence of Christian faith is not in a crucified-only savior but in a crucified and risen savior. And, coming to Jesus lets us share in His resurrection victory and  promises.

 

  • Resurrection’s Call – The resurrection calls us to new life in Jesus – not just future life but a move from spiritual deadness to spiritual life. We also are called to a new mindset of Godly priorities and pursuits, as well as a Godly lifestyle that answers to being God’s people.

 

  • Resurrection’s Power – We might wonder how to live uprightly, and the Bible speaks of God’s resurrection power enabling us to do just that. Now, that is power for serving and for growing in Christ, not power for achieving fleshly goals. It is power for God’s purpose and glory in and through our lives.

 

As we reflect on the cross of Jesus’ sacrifice and the empty tomb of His victory, we are invited to receive it and rejoice in it. And, I believe there is a call to live in resurrection’s power so lost people see lives that are actually changed instead of just hearing us claim we are right with God because of what we believe, whether or not is changes us. Lord, grant us this power.

 



Looking to Jesus: Remembrance, Atonement, and Covenant

April 16, 2019
 
Matthew 26:17-19 & 26-30  Last week, we prepared to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection by putting the cross in the context of Jesus and His work and teaching. This week, let’s be grasped by the weightiness of the cross by looking at the Lord’s Supper and what it says about the cross.
  • Remembrance Connected With Passover – Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper in connection with the Passover, relates the work of Jesus to the Passover. The Passover was a defining moment in Israel’s life as God delivered them and the plague of death passed over the homes with the lamb’s blood on them. So, Jesus’ blood, figuratively speaking, covers us if we are in Christ.

 

  • The Atoning Sacrifice – Jesus’ words during the Lord’s Supper, as well as other passages, point to Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. All people find ourselves in need of atonement, and we discover that atonement that allows us into God’s family and favor at the cross.

 

  • The Covenant in His Blood – Jesus speaks of the covenant, and when we come to Him in repentance and faith, it is to enter a solemn covenant with God. This covenant is one not only of  forgiveness but of faithful discipleship and surrender to Jesus.

The call on each person is to become and be a person of remembrance under Jesus’ atonement and in covenant with God through Christ. It is a call to a distinct identity, a distinct relationship to God, a distinct character, a distinct role, and a distinct future. The cross and its gift of life calls us to humility rather than pride, gratitude rather than entitlement, worship rather than forgetful neglect, and active engagement with cross day by day. As we move toward Easter Sunday, would you contemplate the cross?



Looking to Jesus: The Man, the Ministry, and the Message

April 09, 2019

 
John 3:1-21   As I began thinking about how to help us prepare to celebrate the Resurrection, I felt like we need to start by putting the cross and the resurrection of Jesus back in its context of Jesus person, work, and message – the man, the ministry, and the message. Let’s do that by working from John 3:1-21.

 

  • The Man (vv. 1-2) – As we hear Nicodemus, we realize he is trying to get at who Jesus is, and he is on the right track. This leads us to think about who Jesus is to us. Some see Him as a good man, the founder of a religion, or a martyr whose work was cut short by the cross. Some even confess Him as God but only in word. What is He to us? The Bible makes it clear Jesus was God in the flesh.
  • The Ministry (vv. 1-2) – In Nicodemus’ reference to Jesus’ miracles, we think about His overall ministry – a ministry that demonstrated His claims and authority and showed God’s work. It demonstrated God’s intention, brought God’s Kingdom, and invited people into that Kingdom.
  • The Message (vv. 3-21) – This portion of Scripture is a good summary of Jesus’ message, indicating the work of the cross is what He was about. We find that, in order to come into God’s Kingdom, we have to be born again, and this is something God does. We discover that getting born again happens through faith in Jesus.

If Jesus is God in the flesh, how does that affect our thinking about Him, the cross, and the resurrection? As we walk toward Easter, contemplate God subjecting Himself to His creatures this way. Ponder the ugliness of the cross and the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Also contemplate the need to be born again in Jesus.